Lessons from the Dana Center’s Corequisite Research Design Collaborative Study

By Oscar Cerna, Vivianna Plancarte, Julia Raufman, Jorge Mahecha-Rodriguez

Research has shown that the traditional system of multisemester, prerequisite developmental (remedial) education hinders academic progress for large numbers of students and has disproportionately negative effects on students of color and students from low-income backgrounds. In response, there has been an increased national interest in implementing corequisite remediation in community colleges and four-year institutions. Corequisite remediation involves placing students who have been designated as underprepared directly into college-level courses with concurrent support in the form of in-class tutoring, online learning labs, or a supplemental class, rather than having them take non-credit-bearing developmental courses first. As multiple studies conducted across the country demonstrate that granting students access to college-level courses through corequisite remediation leads to improved student outcomes, the number of corequisite courses—and the number of colleges that offer them—has increased. Despite this abundance of studies, there are still questions about which practices can best address the needs of diverse groups of students, particularly students who struggle with basic math or English.

Starting in 2020, through the Corequisite Research Design Collaborative (CRDC), the Charles A. Dana Center designed an initiative for implementing holistic corequisite course models that embedded both academic and nonacademic assistance in the classroom. These course models were implemented at four partner institutions: three Minnesota colleges—Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, St. Cloud Technical and Community College, and St. Cloud State University—and Houston Community College in Texas. Researchers from the Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness, led by MDRC and the Community College Research Center, partnered with the Charles A. Dana Center to study the implementation of the corequisite course models at the four colleges and offer findings that could be used to strengthen those programs. The researchers also sought to assess whether (and if so, how) the corequisite courses integrated an equity focus that better supported students’ academic and cultural learning styles (including those of English language learners) in order to reduce the equity gaps that exist in math and English course completion. Three research questions guided the study:

  1. How did the CRDC colleges implement holistic student support services in corequisite math and English courses?
  2. What did corequisite course leaders at the CRDC colleges consider to be the successes and challenges of implementing their courses? What were their strategies for improvement?
  3. How did students, faculty members, and other stakeholders experience the holistic corequisite courses? What successes and challenges did they identify as part of their experiences in these courses?

Cerna, Oscar, Vivianna Plancarte, Julia Raufman, and Jorge Mahecha-Rodriguez. 2023. Lessons from the Dana Center’s Corequisite Research Design Collaborative Study. New York: Center for the Analysis of Postsecondary Readiness.